Title: Hardcore Henry
Director: Ilya Naishuller
Starring: Sharlto Copley, Danila Kozlovsky, Haley Bennett.
‘Hardcore Henry’ begins with Henry recalling how he was bullied as a child, before waking up in a tank of water inside a laboratory on an airship missing his left arm and left leg. A scientist, Estelle (Haley Bennett), replaces his missing limbs with cybernetic ones and reminds Henry that she is his wife and that he has amnesia after waking up from a horrible accident. Just as Henry begins to find his bearings, a group of mercenaries led by the telekinetic Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) arrive and kill the other scientists, intending to abduct Henry. Thus begins the video game-sque experience where Henry is on the run for survival and is occasionally rescued by several versions of Jimmy (Sharlto Copley).
This Russian-American science fiction action flick is written and directed by Ilya Naishuller, frontman of the Russian indie rock band Biting Elbows. Naishuller has made a name of himself, when the band’s videos went viral because of the use of their first person perspective, special effects and violence.
The cyborg-soldier-Hardcore-epic surely has a very audacious use of the camera: we are plunged into 95 minutes of Henry’s perspective, whether he is running, stumbling or lying down. It is understandable that producer Inga Smith was fascinated by Naishuller’s talent, in creating this virtual reality for the small screen. However the audiovisuals that worked so brilliantly with videoclips do not translate well into the cinematic grammar.
The Blade-Runner-wannabe isn’t gripping enough to compensate the lack of a proper narrative and empathetic characters. Therefore spectators are utterly bored after watching this long video game Odyssey, as well as nauseated by the excessive violence and bloodshed.
‘Hardcore Henry’ shows how story and medium fuse into a unique form of storytelling, that glorifies violence. If we were to interpret the film through Marshall McLuhan’s gospel “The Medium Is The Message/Massage”, the audience’s sensorium is massaged to being entertained by a culture of sensationalistic brutality, that is making humanity numb to the horrors of terrorism.
Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi